With Amazon’s search for a second headquarters passing its first gauntlet – winnowing the list of potential winners from 238 to 20 – it seems like the perfect opportunity to take stock of where things stand. Takeaways after perusing the Top 20:
Current favorite: Boston. While we’re sticking with Beantown, their uber-intelligent workforce, and that stellar proposal, the fact that three D.C.-area sites advanced to the next round is huge news. It doesn’t appear Bezos’ recent purchases of The Washington Post and a $20 million home in the nation’s capital were mere coincidences. D.C. is nipping at Boston’s heels.
Biggest snub: Minneapolis. On many short lists, a major surprise this healthy, smart city wasn’t able to crack the Top 20.
Super-hyped finalist I’m still struggling with: Make no mistake, Austin is a phenomenal city with well-earned economic development street cred that’s rising exponentially. We just don’t see HQ2 going to a red state with a workforce that’s on the small side compared to its major metro competitors.
Biggest surprise finalist: Los Angeles. LA’s appearance on the list is not a major surprise, per se, but we’re stunned it’s the only West Coast city to make the list. This suggests Amazon’s growing entertainment division figures prominently in the company’s future.
Early favorite that’s taken a hit: Denver. Being one of only two finalists west of the Rockies doesn’t bode well for this once-favored city.
Dark horse: Philadelphia. With Pennsylvania as the only state to feature two finalists, both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have earned their spot in the Top 20. Like Austin, I think Pittsburgh is too small, but Philly checks all the boxes.
The city not to forget about: New York. Pundits claim NYC is too expensive, too congested, and too “New York” (whatever that means). The Big Apple is always a formidable candidate, and both the city and state have a history of getting aggressive for the right deal.
Most tiresome spin: Cities and states that keep insisting incentives won’t be a major factor. The long-term economic impact of this 50,000 high-wage jobs, $5 billion project is going to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars for the victorious market. Make no mistake: The winner will be writing a 10-figure check to close this deal.
Biggest Winner (so far): Amazon. The company initiated this very public selection process to create a seller’s market, and the strategy is working brilliantly. Look for more theater and at least two more drama-filled elimination rounds before we get to a winner sometime later this year.
Biggest Loser: Cactus. Tucson sent Amazon a 21-foot cactus to show their love for HQ2. Not only did Tucson fail to make the cut – Amazon sent the cactus back to Arizona.